The beauty of fly fishing in Colorado? In one week, you can fish a major tailwater, a deep reservoir, and a small stream. All three types of fishing offer their own unique experiences -- but isn't that what adventures are all about? Never the same experience twice!
Caddis Hatch In Elevenmile Canyon: Granted this locale and Beaver Creek (described a little later) are both, by definition, tailwaters. However, the flows and size of the water make them very different fisheries.
The cool thing about fishing Elevenmile Canyon on the evening that I was there was the air temperature (about 65 degrees at 7:00 in the evening) and the fact that there was a nice Caddis hatch. I had a great pool to fish up toward the dam — and not another angler around! Although fish were not rising consistently or dramatically (it was not a lightning round, by any means) fish did rise at my Elk Hair Caddis. The key thing on this evening (and maybe all evenings): give the fly some movement. Dead drift was just that — dead. I had to skate the Caddis in the pool and at the seams. That skating action resulted in 5 hook ups in about 30 minutes.
Stillwater Fishing at Catamount Res: Thursday mid-morning, North Catamount Reservoir was calling my name a little bit louder than the emails in my in-box were. I hadn’t fished any stillwater for several years — and didn't really know, then, what to do on a reservoir. I headed up the Pikes Peak Highway armed with some streamers and some heavier nymphs to throw and made my first cast around 11:00 a.m.
One strategy I tried this time was to let the waves do the work. They’ll push your fly to the shore. Strip some line to give a little movement. I made my way around the shoreline and fished it coming back toward the parking lot.
At Catamount, there are so many rocks around the shoreline, you can find fish tucked in them. It was just like fishing submerged rocks in rivers. I was throwing a dark green Gulpin’ Skulpin and had plenty of strikes with fish following my streamer in those rock structures.
I netted two nice size rainbow trout with two other hook-ups (and long-distance releases). I watched my second catch follow the streamer for a few strips and then I rested the fly for just a second before giving it another quick, short strip — and watched the 16” ‘bow take it. The fight was on.
My next goal is to rent a belly boat and go a little bit further out from the bank and see what the action is like there. Stillwater offers some different challenges than fishing the Ark or Deckers, but no crowds and nice fish makes it an appealing option!
Small Stream Fishing at Beaver Creek: The small stream experience is not about big fish … or even medium-sized fish. Sure, there are fish in small streams that are above 10”, but mainly you’re going to catch 8” brook or brown trout, maybe an occasional cutthroat.
So what does a small stream adventure offer?
Fishing small streams helps me grow to be a better caster. With my 3 weight rod and usually throwing a dry fly of some sort — Amy’s Ant or Caddis are my go-to flies on small streams — I have to be accurate and get a good drift right from the start. Mending the line can disturb the fish. A drift with too much drag may get a fish to try and strike, but usually the speed of the fly on the water makes them miss even if they do strike at it. And fish in small streams are extra spooky. They usually give you one chance and if you don’t hook up, move on. They've taken cover.
Small streams also teach me more about reading the water. Since structures, pools, riffles are so much more condensed, I get the chance to fish to specific spots on the water. Saturday, there was a deep pool just downstream from me behind a large rock out from the bank. I thought if I could get my fly to river-side seam coming off of the rock, I could get a gook up. Sure enough, first cast, strike … and lost him. I couldn’t get downstream fast enough to avoid the current. (I’m sure it was one of those rare 14” browns in that hole!) Now, of course, we are better anglers on big rivers, too, if we are good at reading the river. The point is, small streams offer little room for a mistake. Everything is so condensed — you can’t really mend the line, you’re working in tighter quarters, and you get that one chance.
We hiked down Beaver Creek about three miles in about 40 minutes or so. We took our time coming back up — and covered the water in about 6 hours. Lolly-gagging? Maybe. But we enjoyed each hole, had lunch, got caught in two quick rain showers, and hooked up with about 25 fish in that time.
We caught fish in holes that we have had great luck with on different occasions. We caught fish in stretches of stream where we had not had any luck before. And we had so many strikes that all we could do was laugh. Small streams are about the experience.
So last week was a thing of fly fishing beauty in Colorado. Three fisheries. Three experiences. Three adventures.
301 Fly Tying with Greg Blessing: Colorado Guide flies, Part 1
Fy Tying with Juan Ramirez. Caddis